Of course the nightmare continues on the surface
Type: Single Player
Genre: Dungeon Crawler JRPG
Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory
Release date: September 30, 2021
Well, it’s finally time to jump into the last chapter of Mary Skelter. It’s a bit bittersweet knowing we won’t see these characters again, but let’s make the best of it. Though be warned going in that unlike Mary Skelter 2, where it technically was an alternate timeline prequel kind of thing, Mary Skelter Finale expects you to know what happened in both of the previous games and the new altered true ending of Mary Skelter Nightmares. While I do recommend picking up Mary Skelter 2 so you can play the first two games in the series, as I personally found them really fun and addicting myself, Finale has included a handy Before Story for those that haven’t played Mary Skelter before or just want to read through it again to freshen up their memory. Before Story compiled both Mary Skelter stories so you can just read the story events and the sub scenarios. This includes the new ending that was added due to the time shenanigans in Mary Skelter 2, so those that didn’t want to play through it again can see that ending before starting their Finale playthrough. This also brings along the gallery and music for you to look through and listen. I do recommend reading through Mary Skelter 2 before Mary Skelter: Nightmares, it makes sense once you do. We also have the books here that were released for us to read as well. Remember that these can be scrolled down though if you want to read it on the Switch and you have to aim your stick up to scroll it down. I do wish there was an option to read it portrait style so you don’t have to constantly scroll down, but this is a nice feature anyway.
Finale starts right up where the time altered true ending of Mary Skelter: Nightmares left off. With Otsuu turned back into a Blood Maiden and Little Mermaid revived in the main timeline, the characters that you (may) be very familiar with, along with some others within Liberated District, are being flown up to the surface by Hikari thanks to her new angelic form. As everyone talks about how much better the surface is, they soon see the true reality on what has been happening. Instead of the bright and sunny skies they envisioned, they see red as far as their eye can see. Corpses, fresh corpses, litter the ground as their blood mixes with the old and those still alive scream before they too join the pile.
It doesn’t take long for the Blood Maidens to find out that a mysterious group called Massacre Pink is behind this as they too are attacked by them. By their first interaction, they learn that Massacre Pink has a master that they aim to please, each have their own killing methods and ways to make it satisfying for them, and that they want Alice. And bad news, Massacre Pink is extremely powerful and basically downs everyone in seconds. While Hikari is injured by a hidden enemy, she luckily had enough energy to teleport everyone to safety before everyone (but Alice of course) was killed. However, everyone has been split into multiple groups. And this includes the newest member of Massacre Pink, Pyre, who you see hesitating and now not only struggles with killing humans, but also justifying why she isn’t killing the Blood Maidens she finds herself grouped with. That’s right, the story is going to be told in multiple perspectives. While Chapter 1 has everyone split into six groups, they’ll be merged into three.
If you’ve played any other Mary Skelter game before, you’ll be well at home here. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the dungeons, or Jails as they’re called here. While these Jails are on the surface, they act much like the ones underground. The Jails all have desires which you can fulfill and gain a bonus by attacking Marchens (Hunger), finding treasure and hearts (Libido), and not taking damage while the Jail is sleeping (Sleep); as well as its mood that fluctuates as you go into battles and satisfy desires. And of course, as you explore, you’ll come across situations that call for you to use a Blood Maiden’s ability to continue, traps and gimmicks to avoid getting hurt on, the Nightmare that will chase you down if you step into its bubble, and you can plant 15 Blood Crystals per floor to grow equipment.
Of course, there will be a lot of battles with the enemies, called Marchens, that you’ll have to strike down. While this is the usual turn-based battle system, the important mechanic here is tied to blood splatter. Blood will splatter on the Blood Maidens as you’re attacking an enemy’s weakness, getting a critical hit, or when you overkill them, which will fill up a Blood Maiden’s blood gauge. Once it fills up, this will put them in Massacre Mode, which raises their stats and grants powerful skills for a short while. Maidens also will be able to lick the blood off of their teammates to get a buff or heal depending on who is getting licked. However, corruption will creep in as they take damage and KO. This is represented by the blood gauge becoming murkier and the more it is, the more of a chance the Blood Maiden will enter Blood Skelter where they won’t take commands from you and may attack their fellow Maidens. Thankfully, each team will have a Blood Youth with them (or a way to negate it in Chapter 1) which can use their Mary gun to cleanse them as well as other actions like recovering SP. Although, the Blood Youth only gets one turn per cycle so you’ll have to determine who to cleanse or if they’re far enough away to wait to be cleansed, if it’s safe to use the other Mary Gun actions, if you need to use an item as they’ll be the only ones to use them in battle (par from one job exception), and they do need to charge so they don’t get knocked out for a couple turns. Granted, sometimes you may have to take that chance.
Mary Skelter also operates on a Job System for the Blood Maidens so you won’t be stuck with a terrible move selection for long. Each one has a good selection of jobs to choose from, and even more if you download the free DLC, and switching will allow you to gain the base stats of that job as well as a way to unlock the moves associated with it. Not to mention that you can still use the moves you get from previous Jobs you selected for that Blood Maiden. So, you can switch between a lot of jobs as you go through the game, pick out the moves or passives that works with your strategy, and then stay with the Job that best suits your needs (or you just like the look of).
Now there is a new mechanic or two that got introduced. One is the appearance of Insectmares, which are nasty and creepy looking bugs that have a chance at latching onto a Blood Maiden when taking damage depending on the Jail’s mood. Other than having them on the screen when you’re choosing what command the affected Blood Maiden will do, they have various effects that they have a chance of blocking commands and afflicting status ailments. The Insectmares are nightmare fuel. The other new mechanic is the Zapping system which basically lets you switch between the three teams whenever you want or need. You will often come across a situation where you can’t continue and you just need to switch to a different team as what you need is on the dungeon section that the other team is exploring. I’d honestly recommend going as far as you can with a team before switching to the next (and making sure you note down what keys/items you need from the other teams so you don’t forget).
While I do honestly like the idea behind it, the Zapping system does have positives and negatives. As this does introduce new characters and brings up the Blood Maiden count to 15, having everyone split into three teams does allow you to use everyone. You just need to figure out what strategy you want to use for each group. This also takes off the struggle of figuring out who you should bring out to dungeons if you’re someone that has a hard time choosing. This also allows everyone to have a voice in discussions and allows the characters in the group to interact without feeling like some didn’t get enough. It also helps with the character abilities as you don’t need to scroll between 15 different ones and you will know what abilities a dungeon section will call for depending on the team you’re running.
However, you won’t have the freedom of choosing your own team and you’ll be managing three different groups. You have to stay on track on everyone’s equipment, jobs, leveling, and everything as you won’t be able to put some on the sidelines. The Jails are also a lot denser here, taking you many hours to get through, and with you managing three teams this can cause you to burn out way quicker than the previous games. I even found myself burnt out when I got to Floor 3 of Eiserne Tower and I was someone that played Mary Skelter 2 nonstop. Due to all three teams exploring the same Jail, this also causes the map to be a struggle to read after Chapter 1. There were a lot of times where I thought my current team could go somewhere only to realize that I actually couldn’t when I tried to auto-walk there and had to take a minute or two to look for the cut off showing where my section is and trace where I could go. This desperately needed each team to have their sections of the map color coded (or have the other sections dimmed) so it’s easy to tell which section is your current team’s section at a glance.
I also felt there were a lot of times where abilities were used way too much in a dungeon section and you do go on hours without any story segments as you’re going through each team’s sections and finding out what the other teams need to advance. Mary Skelter Finale also has difficulty spikes. Chapter 1 is pretty good on the difficulty, there was only one team where I had difficulty advancing with and it was mainly because it was two Blood Maidens that were like glass to the regular Marchens (but apparently strong to the Nightmare). Once you go into Chapter 2 though, the difficulty jumps up as it expected you to start getting deep into the various systems that helps strengthen your team. Trust me, you can’t neglect anything here. Personally, I much preferred the gradual difficulty (with random spike here or there) that I experienced in Mary Skelter 2.
Just like previously, each Blood Maiden has their own tent, acting as their room, back at camp. You’ll be able to buy or find various gifts that you can give the Blood Maidens to raise your affections with them, as well as gifting them furniture to change how their tent looks. Raising it will give you more events with them, grant them a new ability, and they’ll give you an item in return for the gift.
While I didn’t enjoy Mary Skelter Finale as much as I thought, and definitely not as much as I did with Mary Skelter 2, this is still a great dungeon crawler game to sink your teeth into. Especially if you’re one that goes to maximize every system you can to make your characters as strong as they could be. Despite having my own complaints, the battle system is still as great as ever, the Zapping system did make the game interesting, I liked how I didn’t have to choose who to leave out of my team (I like everyone okay), the new characters were interesting, and I liked getting to know the new characters and seeing how they interacted with the characters we all know and love. I’d say if you played the other Mary Skelter games, like the idea of managing three teams, interested in learning more about the new characters introduced in this installment, and want to see what happens once they reached the surface, you’ll enjoy Finale. Though, I don’t blame you if you decide to skip this one as the story is just okay as it did suffer with it being splintered between three groups.
However, despite Finale including Before Story for newcomers to Mary Skelter, I honestly wouldn’t recommend picking this up as your first Mary Skelter game. And definitely not if this is your first dungeon crawler as this would just be too much. I do recommend picking up Mary Skelter 2 and playing through that and the included Nightmares remake before diving into this one, because it’s just not the same experiencing the stories firsthand vs just reading all the cutscenes and I do feel it would be easier to get a hang on the mechanics that way as well.
Also, don’t forget to turn voice acting on Japanese so every cutscene will be voiced, rather than only having important cutscenes voiced with English voice acting.